Friday, 26 October 2018

Preparing the orchard for winter

We received a pile of wood chips thanks to Glendale Lewisham (the contractors who manage most of Lewisham's parks on behalf of the council) and this motivated us to get to work in the orchard, preparing the fruit trees for winter.

Our plan was: remove grass around the trees to a radius of 1 metre from the base of each tree, chop up comfrey leaves at the base of the trees, then a thick layer of wood chips 10cm deep (or 4" in old measures).

With our team of volunteers and good weather, the work was completed very quickly and the trees now have a thick blanket around them ready for winter.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018


We had a very successful Apple Day last year (2017). All our orchard fruits had been 'taken' weeks before so we had none of our own to offer the community to taste. Instead we bought in some heritage apple varieties from Brogdale in Kent and some from local greengrocers. The most popular proved to be a variety bought in Lidl and called 'Zinga'.
This coming Saturday, people will be encouraged to walk round our orchard trees, to learn about the varieties we are growing and perhaps to feel motivated to volunteer to care for our orchard at our workdays.
Our story teller last year, Rich Sylvester, proved to be a great hit with young children and their parents and will be back on Saturday.
We could do with more volunteers to help on the day with refreshments. See you on Saturday.

Saturday, 22 September 2018


What a summer it has been. After a particularly cold winter, followed by   an exceptionally wet spring, who would have thought that this past summer in southern England would be so very hot, humid and without rain?
This took its toll on plants, including trees. The Mayow Park orchard trees were showing signs of stress. The oldest trees were planted early in 2012 and the others were planted in early 2016. A plea was sent out asking for orchard carers to water selected trees and six people came forward, three of whom were helping out for the first time.
The need to provide 20 litres to each tree once a week, rather than frequent small amounts, was explained and understood. Small amounts of water dampen the very top of the soil but 20 litres should soak down and reach the roots.
There was one difficulty; no easily accessible water supply. Over the past few years our orchard carers have found ingenious ways to bring quantities of water to the trees including bringing a large water container in a child’s buggy and carrying 4 lots of 5 litre spring water bottles  filled with tap water in a shopper’s trolley bag on wheels.
One orchard carer put pen to paper to reflect on the task they had agreed to take on.

Well, my young son comes home from school every day with messages about the environment...all the things we shouldn't be doing, using plastic, driving the car etc etc. While I appreciate the eco drive in school it was getting me down a little...all this negative talk. So when I saw a post asking for help with the young trees in the park I thought this might be a lovely thing to do together that was actually going to have a positive impact on our local environment.

I have to say I was a little overwhelmed at first with the logistics of getting 20 litres to our designated tree every week but I realised a little hodgepodging with a bike trailer and tub trug and smaller jugs it could be done relatively easily. We did get some slightly odd looks filling up at the cafe toilets but my chatty son was quick to explain what we were up to, to anyone who paused long enough to let him. The dog also liked to join in...I'm sure the tree won't miss the few laps of water he stole too much. As the summer went on my son's enthusiasm did wane a little, so we introduced ice lollies post watering as a reward. We enjoyed them beside our tree hoping that he was also feeling refreshed and cooler after our efforts.

Thank you to that family for all their efforts. The good news is that the younger trees, with that bit of extra TLC, avoided serious dehydration. The older trees (planted in 2012) without individual carers had a much harder time. They had more fruit drop than usual during June and many of the remaining fruits showed peck marks from winged birds (possibly the parakeets) who were suffering from lack of food.

Unfortunately the remaining UNRIPE fruits on all the fruit trees were  picked off one day in July by person or persons unknown, with no fruits remaining, not even windfalls. We had hoped to share some apples with park users at our Apple Day on 6th October and to compare the different tastes. Our default option is to buy a number of commercial varieties for tasting instead.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Tree bracket

In June this year a young(ish) red horse chestnut in Mayow Park was observed and identified as  dead with only a  few dried leaves remaining, no leaf buds and brittle branches, perhaps due to the challenging weather last winter (extra cold), spring (extra damp) and summer (extra dry). Lewisham's tree officer arranged for tree surgeons to remove all branches. The tree was able to remain as a monolith, standing proudly, providing habitats for fungi and invertebrates.

monolith red horse chestnut: photo A Sheridan
By the end of August a magnificent Dryad's Saddle bracket fungus (Polyporus squamosus) had taken up residence roughly 2 metres above the ground.

Underside Dryad's Saddle (photo A Sheridan)

Dryad's Saddle view from above  (photo A Sheridan)
This fungus is supposed to smell strongly of water melon but it was too high up to find out. It does not have gills but has pores instead. Its chosen habitat is deciduous trees and stumps. It is a fine looking fungus.

Monday, 6 August 2018

plum pruning and pocket plum

Not many people are aware of the small fruit bed which is tended by volunteers from Friends of Mayow Park not far from the cafe and near the water fountain. Look and you will find a Victoria Plum tree and a Jonagold apple.
Last year some of the fruits on the plum showed signs of Pocket Plum.  This year it suffered more.
According to the RHS:
Pocket plum is a fungal infection of the young fruits of plums, damsons and some ornamental species, causing them to develop abnormally, without stones.
This is caused by a fungus Taphrina pruni The fruits often develop a bent banana shape. There is no current chemical-free treatment. To control the disease all fruits and infected branches need to be removed before spored develop.
Unfortunately, though some fruits were removed early in the season, we did not pay enough attention to this tree.

Two volunteers arrived at 9am this morning 6th August, to give some positive attention to the plum tree. The sun was already blazing down and we wanted to finish before the day became too hot.
We pruned branches which had diseased fruit, removing all prunings from the site. We also removed a branch growing at ground level below the graft union, which was clearly not the same tree variety.
All tools were disinfected.
Next year we need to be very vigilant early in the season.

tractor mows meadow

The annual hay-making meadow-cutting in Mayow Park took place this morning 6th August 2018, discreetly and without fanfare around 9.30am. A lovely sight on a hot morning. You could imagine you are out of town in a rural setting.
How many people noticed?